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2018 Blauer Spätburgunder

The estate-level wine is interestingly one vintage older than the single-vineyards. Knowing HP, it probably has more to do with stock than philosophy.

A little reduction under the screwcap makes me think of Syrah more than PN. Fragrances cross-over similarly, with raspberry and black cherry, leading to a palate that’s pleasingly rustic in terms of the generosity of dusty tannin and a certain starched texture.

There’s some sweet….not exactly fruit but berry, but the reduction perturbs it before it can register fully. The Jancis glass shows more of it. 

Considering how outstanding Ziereisen’s Spätburgunders have proven to be, I must say I wish this wine were better. Or let’s say, even better, because its only “flaw” is to be merely good. When the reduction fades (in around 6-7 minutes) there’s an enjoyable vigor and a hearty energy, but it still wants to dance away from any normative expectation of “Pinot Noir” and instead alight on either Blaufränkisch or a sort of Languedoc Syrah.

It will probably improve over the days, so let’s see.

I should add that the wine “showed” more attractively when we tasted it on a mild Spring afternoon at the estate last May. I didn’t notice if that bottle was freshly opened, but I was delighted with it. “No great wines, only great bottles….”

Even out past the reduction I’d still guess this was Blaufränkisch rather than PN.  Or else a Languedoc Carignan, or as my fellow taster says, “European red wine.”

It’s been five days now, and I’ve tasted it three times and sipped it twice, and now for the final look I’m using the Spiegelau red-wine glass – and the wine smells excellent, and smells like Pinot Noir. Go figure! The Pinot-y sweetness has emerged and the wine is as enticing as it was last May. No great wines, only great bottles? How about “No great bottles, only great moments with any given glass?” A lifetime of tasting, and as perspective increases with taste memory, and even as knowledge accumulates, isn’t it strange and wonderful that certainties fall away?


2019 Schulen                                                                                  +

Blauer Spätburgunder appears only on the back label. Estate bottled. He says “Jura-limestone” and there are alluvial stones from the ancient Rhine. 10% new, 90% used barriques.

The fragrance is very serious and ferrous, even the sharper element of conifer. There’s a youthful opacity and tannin to spare, but there’s an honestly stunning umami on the finish, and I mean directly on the finish, within seconds, that augurs a potentially thrilling near-future.

An element of that umami comes back to perfume the wine in the Jancis glass, and behind the tannic shroud there is something remarkable here.

I can’t fathom any blind-taster landing on PN; it suggests Brunello as much as anything else. For all its ripeness there’s so much lift and transparency and grace; its guts feel as though the meatiness was hollowed out and replaced with a gossamer of berries and an esoteric mélange of redcurrant and coriander powders. As such it’s a hard wine to “rate” even in my purposely vague system, because it’s in kinetic motion and highly allusive. If I owned it I’d decant it at least an hour out, but with sample bottles I feel like it’s cheating to coax them into showing their “best.”

What I will do is taste from the MaNeil Creamy & Silky when I come back to the wine. Her glasses tend toward the hedonic, notwithstanding her intent. In the interim, this is a most provocative and haunting little beast. It keeps teasing with a tertiary fruit that’s kind of haunting, but even the surface flavors are compelling without being at all ingratiating.

And like most of these, it reverted to its ur-Pinot after five days. It still has a gravely entry and texture but now there’s a swell of the “serious” element of PN on the mid palate, and we aren’t merely intrigued, we are satisfied. 


2019 Talrain                                                                                           ++

Blauer Spätburgunder appears on the back label.

This is my subjective favorite of HP’s wines. A 2,000 foot elevation on a slope below the forest, on limestone with iron-retaining loam; exclusively in used barriques (from “Aßmann,” whom I gather is local), and as has been the case consistently since I came to know these wines – the aromas are enthralling.

The palate is adamant and grippy and finishes with a lash of mints and white pepper, all encased in this ridiculous mineral brightness, which lights slowly like an LED bulb, but buzzes and glows in some otherworldly way, as though it would stimulate echolocation if you drank it in the dark.

All of this is heightened in the Jancis glass, which finds its purpose in just this kind of wine. Forgive me if I’ve written this before – I don’t look back at earlier notes – but this strikes me as a sui generis kind of wine, adapting to no known model or paradigm, unconcerned with varietality, answering to only its own obscure destiny and inventing itself as it proceeds. What a decade of bottle-age would do to it, I don’t yet know. In its young form it is one of the world’s singular wines, in its graphite-like precision, less a discrete flavor than an acupuncture of terroir.

It’s immovable 48 hours later, a wine that’s fervidly magnetic without being seductive – yet it’s clearly superb, for lovers of dark, dark chocolate, black pepper and irises that bloom overnight. 

On its final sampling, it has moved further than the first wines, and I’m suppressing the ferrous minerality with my choice of stem. Yet it still announces “I come from someplace remarkable,” and it’s still my favorite, though I’m sure this is a minority view. But I know of few wines, and almost no Pinot Noirs, with this articulation of iron.


2019 Rhini                                                                                       ++

Back label shows “Blauer Spätburgunder,” adding “Pinot Noir” helpfully in parentheses. It’s the best cadaster on the big hill looming over Ziereisen’s village, on Jura-limestone with iron-retaining loam. All barrique (again from Herr Aßmann), 15% new.

Ziereisen Rhini is becoming a “brand” for connoisseurs of such things. It is more overt and spectacular than Talrain. Raj Parr once told me that he identified Grand Cru (red) Burgundies blind by the taste of limestone, which is seriously vivid here. There is also earnest tannin and a more toasted feel, like a great crust that got the slightest bit burned but the toast tasted better.

It is clear there is another resonance of flavor here, a sustainable reason this wine is cherished of its amateurs, and I count myself among them. The wider circle of elements is entirely convincing, and the wine behaves as we expect “significant” wine to behave. Indeed, among such wines this one’s markedly original, and far from “international.” (Unless by that you mean you stand astride the borders of three nations – Germany/France/Switzerland – in your very backyard….)

Rhini unfurls itself deliberately, as it has a lot of sheer material to deal with. It’s “sweeter” than Talrain, but that’s as far into hedonism as it goes. The clinging length is almost stubborn. “I don’t feel like leaving the party!” 

It had the most to reveal and so it has, more than the others. There’s a limestone bite at first, a big whomp of mocha-tinged fruit, a big smoky finish, an explicable beauty after the more Talmudic Talrain. My sense is that Rhini really glows in less ripe vintages, where its larger more capacious flavors will be craved. That said, this is pretty damn tasty.

Where Talrain has precision, Rhini has capacity. It’s analogous to the distinction between the paradigms of Volnay and Pommard; the latter is wider and the former more precise. At this point (five days in) the wine is in shadow again, but the wash of limestone on the finish is vivid.


2019 Jaspis Zipsin Pinot Noir                                                              ++

Jaspis has been used as the name of their top cuvées, based not on location but on single casks; in this case old-vines PN. “Zipsin” is  a long-established family name that guarantees honesty and fidelity.

If you happen to obtain this wine, and wonder at the very-heavy bottle, blame problems in the supply chain for bottles – which have become hard to get all over Europe. Hanspeter needed to bottle, and at that moment it was these or none. They’ll disappear going forward. Applause is warranted….

This young PN is so concentrated it seems to turn blue in some way, as though its very density constricts it. Obviously it needs air, and it’s clearly a great-big wine. It is also – and this I find intriguing – the one that most resembles what we think of as Pinot Noir

A wine like this should be tasted every three hours for five days, as straight from the bottle it’s a black hole of concentration. Other than its blatant mass and fruit sweetness, it isn’t showing its cards.

Two days later it’s quite the blossomer, and goes three lengths further than Rhini in fruit concentration, plus it’s (in a good way) blatantly Pinot Noir. Is it plausible? Perhaps, but in a way that offers a generous pleasure that only a churl would gainsay.

Remember, this is a cask-selection rather than a particular plot, though more often than not it hails from special land. Over five days I’ve watched it open up and now I’m watching it close again. Even compared with the previous evening – when we sipped a little – it has furled its wings and lowered its gaze. Its explosive aromatics reappear on the finish but are inarticulate on the actual palate. But you won’t wait five days and taste it in dribs and drabs, will you?


2017 Jaspis Bürgin Spätburgunder                                                 ++

This is another family name, and what I think is transpiring is, as the German wine law changes, the family who have never obeyed it are examining what they can get away with under the new regulations, and so some sleights-of-hand may be seen on labels while all of this is worked out. In any case this is the ’17 Jaspis, with all of 12.5% alc (yay!!!) and enough age to see what’s really going on.

The vines were planted in 1953-54 from Dijon clones. I was born in ’53, and they’re in better shape than I am, if this wine is any guide.

And what’s going on is an inordinately seductive and succulent PN, a superb and tangible wine that is easily (and delightedly) “understood,” because this is one sensual feast. Whether it’s the ’17 vintage or the extra two years of bottle age, this is creamy and gushing and it wants less to be sipped than to be hugged and kissed. Its descriptors would deploy all the usual suspects for PN, so I needn’t repeat them here. Indeed its direct fruit attack could suggest the New World, though the alcoholic brevity would imply otherwise.

There is much more embedded in and among all this fruit-glow, and I’ll wait to see which other dimensions may become evident. But if the generous sensuality of this wine were all it had to give, it would be enough. You dive into this wine, and then you see all the little fish swimming around you, and then you write a story about the fauna,  just as we write the story of the flavor nuances swimming through a wine like this.

It’s also a master class in the proper use of oak. While I wouldn’t say it’s quite “ready,” it is definitely available and will give wonderful generosity, depth, and succulence, throwing in a fistful of nuance free of charge.


2019 Gestad                                                                                           +

Back label shows SYRAH, which could surprise you if you’re not expecting it. 15% new barriques (Aßmann).

The deepest color of any vintage of Syrah I’ve seen from here. And the fragrance is ideal, just the right blend of berries and violets and animality, and even the Syrah-typical reduction is agreeable in this context.

The wine could seem “slight” next to, say, a Graillot Crôszes, but it’s ripe (13%) and its sleeker lines deliver a pleasure of their own. The microclimate is warm in these parts, but all ripeness isn’t the same, and the idea of kilocalories of sunlight intrigues me, or else why is the Rhône wine so much thicker and bloodier?

But we don’t always have to seek that out, and we definitely don’t need to insist it’s the sole criterion of quality. Actually what this also calls to mind is one of those ambitious Zweigelts that combine roastiness and berries and spit-roasted lamb jus. There’s a salty, almost mineral element, and apart from its serious attributes it’s also delicious, a stylish wine of improbable length.

It’s less tannic than the comparable Spätburgunder, and such oak as it has is entirely integrated.  I am seriously impressed.

It’s been subject to my tasting/sipping decathalon, and now as I conclude I’m putting it into an “unsuitable” glass just because I’m a degenerate, and I can. It’s so shockingly good that I want to make it drop and give me fifty pushups.


2019 Jaspis Däublin Syrah                                                         ++

Again a long-established family name for an unfiltered “premium” wine that actually has lower alc (12.5%) than its forbear.

The first fragrance is dense, suggestive, translucent from the Riedel “Chianti Classico,” but explosively expressive from the Jancis. The palate, from either glass, is magnificent.

Years ago at a superb restaurant (since closed, alas) in the Valais, I seized the chance to study from a staggering list of seemingly every important Valaisian wine, and so my world was enriched by acquaintance with Humagne (Rouge and Blanc), Cornalin, Dioli Noir, Petit Arvine, Heida, among others, and I tell you this because I hesitated to order Syrah, because I “knew” Syrah and I preferred to steep myself in the authochones. The sommelier set about surmounting my stubbornness, and brought me one of the most impressive Syrahs I’d ever tasted outside of the northern Rhône, and I’m telling you this because this wine reminds me of that one.

Its lines are strict and its superficial impression is cerebral. Within an almost tensile body is a groundswell of meat and berries and mineral and garrigue, yet it doesn’t offer the cigar-box and it certainly doesn’t splash you with oak. The wine is both ambitious and also somehow giddy, the way the best Blaufränkisch can be.

What’s most striking to me, these Syrahs ride in the front seat with the Pinots, and I can’t say whether it’s the ’19 vintage or more know-how, but whatever it is I’m knocked for a loop. When you talk about complexity without weight, you’re usually talking about white wine, and when you taste something so brilliant yet also so smooth – well then you’re talking about  a pretty rare creature.

The wine has grown more moderate and elegant over the days, and is the least “rugged” among the range of reds. When the “complications” of freshly opened Syrah have faded, we’re left with a rustic sort of glow, a wine that “dresses up nice,” one could say.


2019 Viviser                                                                                     +

This is an old name for the variety GUTEDEL, a.k.a. Chasselas, which appears on the back label.

The basic Gutedel is called “Heugumber” and was not sent, probably to make room for a Jaspis-level Chardonnay coming up. I’ll try to score a bottle locally, because I love that wine. This is the next one up; it’s aged in large cask on its gross lees for 20 months, and often shows what they call a “yeast-reduction” and what I find is between an aldehyde common to many “natural-wines” and a flor quality we find in the Jura. Both are present here, in a wee slip of a thing (11% alc) that makes a point of its own.

I like Chasselas. I admire its feints toward significance (e.g., the Grand Crus from Switzerland) and I adore it in the simplest of forms, which some think are mundane but which I can’t resist in the glug-glug vein. There is definitely ordinary Chasselas but I can barely remember any that weren’t a pleasure to guzzle or a joy to study.

This is the best vintage of Viviser I’ve yet tasted. It has so much umami it’s like it was fined with kombu. The mid palate density is material, and lingers into a seemingly endless finish of walnuts and macadamias, but to get there you wade through a weightless yet thick miasma of masa harina and chanterelle and mussel and saffron and a salty-yeasty angularity – this ostensibly little wine is, in fact, a masterpiece.

It’s a somewhat perishable one; it didn’t get better over the days. But no matter! Open, drink, repeat!


2019 Steinkrügle                                                                               ++

Back label shows Gutedel, adding that the vineyard is Jura-limestone with loss; 35 year old vines; large barrels on the gross lees for 20 months. Oh, and a mighty alcohol of 11.5%.

Again we have the Chassagne/Meursault aroma, and again we have a dead-giveaway for one of those “modest” white Burgundies that punches way above its weight, like a 1er Cru St Aubin you paid a pittance for, that all your friends swear is village Meursault.

After an awkward vintage last year, this is back in glorious form and is, for me, one of the hidden jewels of the wine world. To receive these flavors in such a drinkable form is a gift from the angels, and even if you’re skeptical about my Burgundy cognate, you’ll surrender to the nut-husk saltiness along with the buttery porridge and the melodic repose, as if Mozart had dropped off to sleep on your couch.


2019 Jaspis 10-4 Gutedel                                                                  +

It stands for 10-to-the-4th-power, referring to a planting regimen of at least 10,000 vines per hectare.

The alc is a modest 12.5%. Modest because this ne-plus-ultra Gutedel has nothing less than Montrachet as its ambition, and is priced….not identically but accordingly.

It happens I have drunk a Montrachet just a few days ago, thanks to the generosity of a friend; it was the 2015 from Jadot, and it was entirely different from my anticipation and also both celestial and inspiring. But let’s leave it off to the side, and approach this wine on its own merits.

It is certainly marvelous. It isn’t quite successful as a facsimile of Burgundy, but as a shake of the fist toward the heavens, it is a heroic Gutedel. In many ways it’s mind blowing that it exists at all. Usually the upper reaches of the variety aim for minerality and depth, but this one is a sun-warmed pond of leesiness and brioche.

Given that there is clearly more to this than to the last wine, does it follow that it is better? Yes, if it’s volume and concentration and (physio) sweetness that you want. But I find the Steinkrügle more seamless, and the Viviser even longer on the finish. No question: What seeks to impress here does impress, and there’s much to delight in its honeyed doughy richness. Yet it has the paradoxical effect of highlighting the superbness of the wines that led up to it, and while this wine is overtly more stupendous, I’d argue that its little brothers are even more heroic.


2019 Jaspis Nägelin Chardonnay

Unfiltered, 13.5% alc, another old family name.

There’s a reason they sent this to me, obviously, since it is likely I asserted my indifference to Chardonnay. So! After bathing in the delights of Gutedel, what have we here?

We have a firm, fine Chardonnay with a certain coarseness of structure but with an admirable determination not to copycat anyone. Something I notice with many ambitious German Chards is a flavor of meyer-lemon zest and not-too-old Reggiano, alongside a stoniness that either works or doesn’t.

But I can see why he’s happy with it. There’s a fist like a boulder in the mid-palate here, whereas the Gutedels are more pliant. I myself am finding that the rockiness is clumsily situated but that the flavors it supports are very good. It also strikes me that, on another day, from another glass, with another meal, all of this could vanish and the wine be entirely satisfying. But all I have is here and now – or actually, a series of heres and nows. We will see what they bring.

It took four days, but the last sips of this wine were quite happy, when its constituents knit together. 

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